Spring 2023: Division of Comparative Biomechanics

Message from the DCB Officers

Brooke Flammang, (Chair) chair.dcb@sicb.org; Misty Paig-Tran (Chair-Elect) empaig-tran@fullerton.edu; Jimmy Liao, (Program Officer) dpo.dcb@sicb.org; Laura Habegger, (Secretary) secretary.dcb@sicb.org; Andrew Schulz, (SPDAC) aschulz@is.mpg.de

Your DCB officers, as of January 2023, are listed above. Following our in-person SICB 2023 meeting in Austin, TX and the extended virtual format SICB+, we want to thank our departing officers and welcome our incoming officers. Leaving us in his role of Chair of the Division is John Long, who has devoted limitless time to our Division with outstanding and thoughtful leadership. Also following is Armita Manafzadeh, our SPDAC representative who constantly kept our members in tune with the latest news, events and updates concerning our Division. Thank you both for your hard work! 

We want to welcome our new Chair Brooke Flammang, Chair-Elect Misty Paig-Tran, and new SPDAC representative Andrew Shultz. We are excited to have you!  We want to thank all members for their work in all committees listed below, for their arduous work on selecting numerous awards and nominating upcoming election positions. On behalf of the Society and the Division, thanks to you all for your important service in running the meeting both in person and on SICB+.

DCB 2023 Awards

Carl Gans Award 

Dr. Rico0Guevara standing in front of plants with red flowers.
Congrats to Dr. Alejandro Rico-Guevara, winner of our 2023 Carl Gans Award!

The winner of the 2023 Carl Gans Award, Dr. Alejandro Rico-Guevara from the University of Washington, presented his talk  “Comparative Ecophysics of Avian Nectarivory” at the annual meeting in Austin. 

The Gans Award was sponsored again this year by the Journal of Experimental Biology, published by the Company of Biologists. Dr. Monica Daley, Monitoring Editor of the journal, presented Dr. Rico-Guevara with a year’s subscription. From the Society’s Gans Endowment, Dr. Guevara also received financial support to help offset travel and housing expenses associated with the annual meeting.

Dr. Rico-Guevara giving Gans Lecture.
Dr. Rico-Guevara giving the 2023 Gans Lecture. 

The Gans Award Committee was composed of Drs. Anabela Marie Resende Da Maia (Chair), Venkata Amarnadh Surapaneni, Raul E. Diaz Jr, Peishu Li and Talia Moore. In recommending the winner to the divisional officers, the Gans Award Committee had this to say about Dr. Rico-Guevara: “Dr. Rico-Guevara uses a uniquely integrative approach to explore the trade-offs of avian morphology, feeding, and behavior, concentrating on hummingbirds. Dr. Rico-Guevara has developed specific high-speed macro-imaging and tracking techniques to allow for the collection of behavioral data on large-scale dynamics of hummingbird flight and feeding in the field as well as feeding biomechanics in the lab.” This year, the Committee wished to recognize the Gans Award runner-up, Dr. Nicholas Burnett from the University of California, Davis.  Congratulations to both Dr. Rico-Guevara and Dr. Nicholas Burnett!

The Carl Gans Award was established to recognize Carl Gans’ contributions to animal morphology, biomechanics, and functional biology and to honor investigators who work in this field. The Gans Award is given to (1) an outstanding young investigator in the field of comparative biomechanics and/or (2) an investigator at any career stage for a significant contribution to the literature of comparative biomechanics published in the preceding five calendar years. Each summer we solicit nominations, so please consider nominating yourself or other outstanding researchers in the field. 

Best Student Presentation Awards

Tube feet on sea star
Seastar, Protoreaster nodosus. Photo: Theodora Po.

The DCB Best Student Presentation award series featured eight outstanding finalists selected to present their work in the special session. We appreciate all of the students who submitted their application for consideration. We are grateful to the DCB BSP judging committee composed of Mark Denny, Glenna Clifton, Andrew George, Roi Holzman, Katrina Whitlow, Andrew Schulz and Yangfan Zhang.

Theodora Po holding a sea star.
Congrats to Theodora Po, winner of our 2023 award for Best Student Presentation in Biomechanics!

This year’s winner of the Mimi A. R. Koehl and Stephen A. Wainwright Award for the Best Student Talk in Biomechanics was Theodora Po from UC Irvine whose talk was titled: “The Collective and Central Control of Locomotion in Sea Stars.”

The Stephen Vogel Award for Best Student Poster in Biomechanics was not held this year due to a lack of eligible submissions (i.e., submissions that followed the rules for extended abstract). We are excited to receive new applications for SICB 2024. Please feel free to contact us (DCB officers) if you have any questions! 


For SICB 2024, we have a great lineup of diverse and interesting symposia sponsored by DCB:  

  1. “Computational & physical models in research and teaching to explore form-function relationships” – M. Janneke Schwaner
  2. “Feel the flow: how water movement shapes organisms and ecosystems” – Molly Womack
  3.  “Convergent evolution across levels of biological organization, organisms, and time” – Emily Lau
  4. “What do trade-offs mean to reproducing females? An integrative look at whole-organisms trade-offs” – Chloe C. Josefson
  5. “Moving in an uncertain world: adaptive locomotion from organisms to machine intelligence” – Jean-Michel Mongeau
  6. “Modeling organismal responses to changing environments” – Kendra Greenlee

Please feel free to reach out to the divisional Program Officer, Jimmy Liao (dpo.dcb@sicb.org) with your ideas or questions for future symposia.

Social Media

Please join our Facebook group and follow our Twitter account. Please tag @SICB_DCB_DVM in any tweets you’d like to highlight to our community, and feel free to ask science and/or logistical questions you might have in our Facebook group.

Members’ Meeting Minutes

The minutes from our latest meeting in Austin can be found on our divisional website.

Regional Meetings

Midwest Regional Meeting 

Midwest Regional Meeting flyerSituated on the shores of Lake Michigan, the University of Chicago hosted the Midwest Regional SICB meeting on April 1. This meeting was a great opportunity for early career researchers to present their work and start exciting, new collaborations. We had a dazzling line up of highlighted speakers including Dr. Jasmine Nirody, Dr. Matthew Kolmann, Dr. Matteo Fabbri, Dr. Phil Anderson, Dr. Neil Shubin, and Dr. Angeles Salles. We are excited to have hosted roughly 130 talented researchers, and to show off some fascinating science!

Workshop in phylogenetic comparative methods for early career biomechanists

The Moen lab in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oklahoma State University will hold a summer workshop on phylogenetic comparative methods in evolutionary biomechanics. Review of applications will begin on 15 March 2023 and will continue until all available seats are filled. For more information please contact Rafael Bovo (rparell@okstate.edu).

DCB 2023 Elections

This year we have two positions for elections at DCB, Program Officer and Secretary. This task is overseen by our 2023 Election Nominating Committee: Drs. Diego Sustaita (Chair), Chris Anderson, and Nicole Danos. Thank you so much to the committee for their help seeking nominees for this important election. Special thanks to all candidates for your support to DCB, your time and commitment is an invaluable contribution to our Division and the Society.  All candidates’ biographies are listed below, and our proposed bylaws amendments are posted here. Please don’t forget to vote! The ballot is open now.

2023 DCB Program Officer Candidates

Glenna Clifton

Glenna Clifton headshot.
Glenna Clifton, DCB Program Officer candidate.

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Portland

Education: Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University (2017, Advisor: Andrew Biewener), B.A. magna cum laude in Physics and Dance, Barnard College (2010)

Professional Experience: Postdoctoral fellow in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California at San Diego (2017-2020, Advisor: Nicholas Gravish)

SICB Activities: Active member since 2010. Co-founder and organizer of the “What is a Scientist?” outreach program associated with the SICB annual meetings from 2017-2020. For this program, I coordinated over 90 classroom visits of 50+ SICB scientists, reaching over 2250 middle school students. Active participant in PUI working group activities.

Other Memberships: ICVM, HAPS

Research Interests: My research aims to understand animal movement within the context of environmental and behavioral variability. My goal is to directly consider locomotion biomechanics under naturalistic conditions that relate to an animal’s ecology and evolution, while also inspiring field-capable robotics. Current projects in my lab span diverse clades, from crustaceans to insects to birds, while using interdisciplinary approaches suitable for an undergraduate-based institution.

Goals Statement: DCB is one of the largest divisions at SICB, often representing a disproportionate number of the symposia and contributed talks. A primary challenge for the DCB Program Officer is coordinating sessions to minimize time conflicts and promote ease of finding and attending relevant presentations. My experience with organizing multi-faceted events coupled with my love for efficiency and color-coded spreadsheets will help me create a streamlined and effective DCB program. Further, my passion for wordplay and witticisms will welcome whimsy in session titles, and my event planning experience will help coordinate with DVM to promote an inclusive and fun divisional social. I hope to give back to SICB by helping curate an accessible DCB program that highlights innovative research from scientists across diverse career stages and backgrounds.

Stephanie Crofts

Dr. Crofts with a bookshelf in the background.
Stephanie Crofts, DCB Program Officer candidate.

Current position: Assistant Professor, Biology Department, College of the Holy Cross

Education: B.A., University of Chicago (2006); Ph.D., University of Washington (2015)

Professional experience: Assistant Professor, Biology Department, College of the Holy Cross (2020-present); Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2017-2020); Post-doctoral Researcher, New Jersey Institute of Technology (2015-2017)

SICB activities: Member since 2008; presentation judge for DCB and DVM talks and posters at multiple meetings

Other memberships: International Society of Vertebrate Morphology, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists

Research interests: Comparative biomechanics, including but not limited to marine organisms, dental functional morphology, and puncture mechanics

Goals Statement:  In my mind the major strengths of the SICB meeting come out of the integrative and comparative aspects of the society, and I feel like the PO position is where one really gets the opportunity to bring this to the forefront and foster cross-disciplinary experiences. They can use their position to amplify voices that might not otherwise be heard, and craft a program such that the sessions can explore an area of interest from diverse perspectives. SICB is my go-to meeting, and as an early career PI at a primarily undergraduate serving institution, and I’ve been excited to bring my research students with me over the past couple of years. I love that my students and I are able to sit in on such a huge range of talks, from those that are in my lab’s immediate realm of expertise to those where I’m a complete novice and my students can learn something new. I’m excited about the prospect of contributing to the division and the society. 

2023 DCB Secretary Candidates

Cassandra Donatelli

Cassandra Donatelli with plants in the background.
Cassandra Donatelli, DCB Secretary candidate.

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Fowler School of Engineering, Chapman University

Education: BA in Archaeology Technology and Historical Structures (University of Rochester), PhD in Biology (Tufts University)

Professional Experience: 2020, 2022: Visiting instructor (UW-Friday Harbor Laboratories), 2018-2019: President (Biology union of graduate students), 2018-2019: Secretary (Graduate Women in Science and Engineering), 2018-2019: Board Member (Tufts Experimental College), 2017-2018: President (Tufts Graduate Student Council), 2017-2018: Committee Member (Tufts Policy and Programs Committee)

SICB Activities: Active member (presented every year since 2013; advised multiple student presentations every year since 2017)

Other Memberships: ICVM, JMIH, SCAS, CSZ

Research Interests: Functional morphology, Biomechanics, Bio-inspired design

Goals Statement: One the best parts of SICB is how welcoming it is for student researchers. Since I first presented here as a student myself, I have wanted to participate in SICB leadership to continue to support students from all backgrounds and make it accessible for all researchers from high schoolers to early career professors. I hope to be involved in SICB leadership for the rest of my academic career, and I am excited to get started! As DCB Secretary, I would be excited to contribute to the newsletter and keep detailed notes during meetings. Not only is this an essential service to the community, but a great way to learn the ins and outs of SICB leadership. I look forward to contributing in this way as well as through adding my own experience as an interdisciplinary researcher. It has been awesome to watch DCB include more bioinspired design and engineering sessions, and I think my position in the school of engineering at Chapman would be a valuable asset. I also look forward to doing my part to continue to grow the amazing student support SICB already offers to make meetings even more accessible to folks from around the world!

M. Laura Habegger

M. Laura Habegger
M. Laura Habegger, DCB Secretary candidate.

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Biology Department at the University of North Florida

Education: BS in Aquatic Biology (Universidad de Buenos Aires), MS and PhD in Biology (University of South Florida)

Professional Experience: 2015-2016: Ichthyology Collection Manager, Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI); 2015-2016: Adjunct instructor (USF); 2016- 2019: Assistant Professor (Florida Southern College); 2019-present: Assistant Professor (University of North Florida)

SICB Activities: Active member (presented my research most years since 2008). Secretary of DCB (2022-present)

Other Memberships: ICVM and JMIH 

Research Interests: Functional morphology and feeding biomechanics in fishes

Goals Statement: SICB has been and continues to be the most energizing research platform for organismal researchers like me. During this term as the DCB Secretary I was honored to work with colleagues and friends and to obtain a much better understanding of how much work is devoted to keep our society running, which makes me even more appreciative of this great community. If elected for a second term, my goals are to continue to support the growth of our division. I want to give back to this society that has done so much for my research and my intellectual growth while promoting the inclusion of diverse members to become an active part of such a vibrant and welcoming research community.